Denis Savage, SDBoltReport.com: With the same offensive scheme being run for three consecutive years in San Diego, Rivers had the benefit of knowing the playbook. The biggest challenge, therefore, was the application. He has looked fundamentally sound in camp and his passes are crisp through two preseason games. Rivers does fall victim to the tendency of staring down a receiver or two but he will grow into understanding you can't do that in the NFL. Honestly, I would rather have him under center than Brees.
As for Saturday, Rivers will play a half of football and show that he has the confidence to succeed in this league. He has more mobility than most people think and can make plays happen when it appears no one is open. After a down game, I expect you will see he learned his lesson.
DF: We know that we won't see LaDainian Tomlinson until the Seahawks face the Chargers in December 24th. Who are the backup running backs fighting for roster spots?
DS: Michael Turner isn't fighting for a roster spot - he has it. An absolute beast in the backfield and awfully fun to watch. Ray Perkins is a scatback in the Dave Meggett mold. He has flashed some skills and earned a practice squad nod last season. With two solid backs, he is looking at the same role this season.
DF: Who are the other players who have impressed enough this preseason to surprise and perhaps make the team?
DS: The talk right now is surrounding Cletis Gordon, a kick returner/cornerback. He has the inside track from the ranks of the undrafted because of Darren Sproles' season-ending injury. He has good vision and can make things happen specifically in the return game.
Wide receivers Greg Camarillo and Malcom Floyd have impressed and they are fighting for the same spot. They will see plenty of action on Saturday and it could tell which one makes the final squad. Floyd has the leg up since he used up his practice squad eligibility while Camarillo can still land there.
While it won't be a surprise, tight end Brandon Manumaleuna (acquired from the Rams) has been a stud. He is a beast in the blocking game and has shown surprising agility for a man his size with hands to boot.
DF: Conversely, who has disappointed? Who's on the bubble?
DS: Linebacker Donnie Edwards, simply because he hasn't played. And the whole trade saga has brought this team down with the Saints offering a fourth round pick and general manager A.J. Smith not budging. But it is a distraction and it is elevated because he isn't on the field.
Quarterback A.J. Feeley hasn't been sharp through much of camp and that isn't inspiring with Rivers at the helm and rookie Charlie Whitehurst the other option should something befell the starter. Feeley should get some reps in this game and it will be crucial for him.
Tight ends Aaron Shea and Ryan Krause have both been plagued by injuries and that could hurt their cause immensely. There has been talk about both being cut which has put them in a tough position of whether to play or get healthy.
DF: So far this preseason, Seattle has been great against the run, less so against the pass - pretty typical for the vanilla defense they show in the preseason. How do you see the Chargers exploiting that?
DS: Two tight-end sets. While I don¹t imagine Antonio Gates playing much, if at all, this is an idea they will employ all season as teams lineup to stop Tomlinson. With Manumaleuna's emergence, they will have created mismatches all over the field with a formation that screams "Run!" You may not see it this game because we will be lining up in December and memories run deep.
In the absence of the tight end, look for them to run a number of quick hits to the wide outs with screens on the outside and swing passes to the running backs. That will prevent the Seattle defense from focusing all its energy on clogging the middle.
Play-action-pass will be present but not as prevalent because of the December showdown.
Stay tuned for Part Two of "Behind Enemy Lines: The San Diego Chargers", to be published on Friday.